TAMPA, Fla. (AP)Byron Leftwich is out as offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are shaking up their coaching staff after finishing with the only losing record Tom Brady has had in more than two decades as a NFL starter.
Leftwich, 43, was fired Thursday, three days after the Bucs were eliminated from the playoffs by the Dallas Cowboys and just two years removed from helping Brady win a record seventh Super Bowl in the quarterback’s first season with Tampa Bay.
Bucs coach Todd Bowles also announced Chris Boniol (specialists), Kevin Garver (wide receivers), Jeff Kastl (offensive quality control), Lori Locust (assistant defensive line) and Todd McNair (running backs) will not return next season.
In addition, quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, senior offensive assistant Rick Christophel and outside linebackers coach Bob Sanders have decided to retire, the team said.
”We appreciate the hard work and contributions that all of these coaches made to our successes over the past four seasons,” Bowles said.
”As a collective group, we did not meet the high standards that had been set for this past year and my focus now is on doing what is needed to ensure a successful 2023 season,” Bowles added. ”These were very difficult decisions, but something that I felt was necessary for our football team going forward.”
The Bucs went 8-9 during the regular season, but nevertheless held off the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons to repeat as NFC South champions. They became only the fourth team in league history to make the playoffs with a losing record in a non-strike season.
Brady’s contract expires this winter, and the 45-year-old quarterback hasn’t given any indication if he plans to retire, return to the Bucs for a fourth season, or possibly move on to another team.
It’s not known how the decision to fire Leftwich might impact Brady’s plans.
Bowles was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach when Bruce Arians announced his surprise retirement last March. He inherited the former coach’s entire staff, including Leftwich, who – like Bowles – joined Tampa Bay as assistants in 2019.
Jameis Winston threw for more than 5,000 yards in Leftwich’s first year as Bucs offensive coordinator, however the 2015 No. 1 overall pick also led the league in interceptions and was allowed to leave in free agency.
Enter Brady, who signed with Tampa Bay in 2020 after a historic 20-year run with the New England Patriots and has led the Bucs to three straight playoff berths, including back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history.
Arians entrusted Leftwich to work with the five-time Super Bowl MVP to meld components of Arians’ ”no risk it, no biscuit” offense with elements of the system Brady ran with the Patriots.
The results were impressive until this season, when the Bucs had the league’s second-ranked passing attack at 269.8 yards, but finished 32nd in rushing (76.9) and 25th in scoring (18.4 points per game) after averaging more than 30 points the previous two years.
Brady led the league in passing yards (5,316) and touchdown passes (43) in 2021, when Tampa Bay set a team record for regular-season victories (13). He was third in passing yards this season with 4,694 but only had 25 TD passes as the offense struggled to sustain drives and get the ball into the end zone.
Meanwhile, Leftwich has gone from being interviewed for several head coaching vacancies a year ago to out of a job.
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.
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